If You’re Thinking of Upgrading WordPress

I’ve already received a few emails about this upgrade and keeping WordPress up to date.  First off, the one I posted about last night is a release candidate.  I wouldn’t recommend upgrading until the new version is actually released.  Example, I’m not running it on this blog yet, only on a development blog.

When you do decide to upgrade, I recommend Keith Dsouza‘s Automatic Upgrade plugin.  It handles all the steps required for a manual upgrade for you.  Make sure you make a donation to his cause…this plugin will save you a lot of time and hassle.  It even downloads the newest version of WP for you and prompts you when upgrades are available.

I do recommend doing a manual upgrade at least one time in your life.  First of all, it will help you appreciate the automatic plugin.  Secondly, you’ll be able to handle any odd issues that arise later on if you’ve been through the process.  To upgrade manually, there are a few basic steps.  WordPress has published a full article on upgrading, but here are the high points:

1.  Back up all of your files

2.  Back up your database (there’s a plugin for that too)

3.  Download the version of WP you want to install

4.  Disable your plugins

5.  The only potentially tricky part.  FTP the files for the new version to your server…DO NOT upload the wp-content directory and overwrite the one that you already have.  It contains your theme, plugins, and images.  If you overwrite it they’ll all be gone…good thing you backed them up, right?  Only overwrite the contents of the wp-content folder–not the actual folders within it.  In most cases, this is an index.php file that does nothing, and you won’t be in any trouble if you avoid the wp-content folder altogether.   You also don’t want to overwrite your wp-config.php file either.  This shouldn’t be a problem because there usually isn’t one that ships with the new version, but double check.

6.  Go to www.yoursite.com/wp-admin/upgrade.php.  I’m assuming here that your blog is located in your root directory.  If it isn’t, just adjust the URL.  For example, if your blog is in the /blog directory you’d point your browser to  www.yoursite.com/blog/wp-admin/upgrade.php

7.  This will handle all of the upgrades and prompt you if there is a database upgrade (there is for 2.5).  It’s a very simple process and tells you when you’re finished.

8.  Reactivate your plugins

9.  You’re done!

WordPress 2.5 Release Candidate

I am very crunched for time today, but tonight I’ll be installing the WordPress 2.5 release candidate on one of my development blogs and give a full report here–probably posted sometime very early Wednesday morning.

WordPress new interface

From the looks of it, the “Write” section of the dashboard is going to be much improved, which is an area I think WP needed to catch up.  Another great new feature will be a customizable dashboard.  Both of these features should work out great for me, as one of my projects in the works is going to have scores of contributers.  I want to be able to limit the functionality for experienced users and also make it as easy as possible for newer users to contribute using WordPress.

Speech to Text Software

We’ve been contemplating buying the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software so that The Missus can “write” content for our new project while holding a baby.  It would also be a lot easier for her to dictate everything–she’s an excellent speaker–as fast as she want to go.  I can go back in later and edit if needed, but the reviews I’ve read of NaturallySpeaking say it does a good job of punctuating on its own.

I’m also thinking it would be great for my dad.  He’s losing his eyesight rapidly, and can hardly read a computer screen anymore.  I was wondering if anyone had any experience with this software.  A guy I used to work with swears by it, just because he can’t type.  It says it can handle over 100 words per minute of human speech.  Being from the South, that should be plenty for my family and me.  🙂

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In This Year of Political Calls For Change

I decided to make a few changes in my career today. Well, I didn’t actually decide today. I just put the wheels in motion officially. So there’s a good chance that I’ll be available for anyone who needs BI, software development, or sys admin work done. Of course, only high rollers need apply. I hit the ground running in two short weeks.

Might as well quote another Van Halen song while I’m at it…

Change, nothin’ stays the same
Unchained, and ya hit the ground runnin’
Change, ain’t nothin’ stays the same
Unchained, yeah ya hit the ground runnin’

Write It Down You Selfish Jerk!

After I posted my grandfather’s Thanksgiving thoughts last night, I spent the next few hours re-reading some other things that he wrote. I will definitely be posting more of it in the future. He was a great storyteller, and there are plenty of good stories in his memoirs.

TCH brought up something in the comments of that post that I think was pretty significant. We’ve all but lost the art of good, personal writing–letter writing was what he called it. I’m making a call right now with my small little voice that we do what we can to remedy this. If your parents and/or grandparents are still living, encourage them to chronicle the big events in their lives at a minimum, or to write an entire life story. You’ll be surprised how much entertainment and wisdom you can gain from their experiences, and you’ll probably make their day by just showing interest in their lives.

In the same vein, it’s worthwhile for all us to do the same. Blog software makes that easier than ever before (you don’t have to make the blog publicly available) but a pen and pad work just as well. I actually have everything my grandfather wrote scanned and converted to .pdfs, and it is cool to see it in his handwriting.

Some of the best stuff my grandfather wrote was about what it was like growing up in the 1920s and 1930s. It is really interesting to me because he grew up about 10 miles from where I did; yet his experiences were so different from mine. It is strange to imagine, but the way we grew up would be very foreign to the way kids are growing up today. Your personal description of the Atari 2600 or riding a bike with no helmet may actually interest someone somewhere down the line.

When I think of all the funny stories I have accumulated over the years, it is sad to think that they will all die with me. Maybe I’ll record them all, at least cleaned up versions of them, and no one will care. But maybe someone will. I should at least give them the opportunity to decide if any of it is worth the bother.

Post Debate Coverage Part VI — Brownback

And Ron Paul is still winning the polls.  Damn computers…something must be wrong with our software.

Socially, I’d say Brownback is the truest conservative up there.  What is controversial about his abortion issue?  He is smart on this.  He just doesn’t waffle on it.  Whether you agree with him or not, he doesn’t waffle.

Even when asked the tough question about prosecution by Colmes, he doesn’t waffle.  You have to respect that.

Ron Paul’s Campaign Being Squashed by Big Media?

I was reading this article on ABC.com about Ron Paul’s success in the post debate polls and was pretty disgusted by the article in general. Then there are the absolutely ridiculous statements like this:

Since online polls aren’t scientific — people choose to take them, and many people vote multiple times — doing well in them doesn’t necessarily mean a campaign is on the move.

This statement paint ABC into a corner. If this statement is correct, the multi-billion dollar conglomerate that is Disney (ABC’s parent company) is so technically inept that they can’t conduct an online poll without stopping people from voting several times. Even simple, freely available poll software can handle this. Surely, someone at ABC can handle this. If not, I’ll be forwarding my resume ASAP.

But maybe that’s not what happened at all. Maybe only Ron Paul’s rabid supporters were the only ones who chose to participate. Does that mean that ABC.com is so insignificant and out of touch with the mainstream that only fringe crackpots like Paul supporters want to participate in their poll? I don’t thinks so.

The other possibility is that this statement is simply not true. But then, why would a big media company want to publish an untrue statement like this? I mean, it’s not like huge corporations have something to gain by making sure that one of the big government Republicrats gets elected, right?

Right.

Part II (of many) on SEO, Google, and Content–Technology Moves, Build For Change

First of all, I can’t take credit for all of these ideas. Lot’s of them have been borrowed from guys like Steve Pavlina who are basically saying the same thing I am.

One of the more important points Steve makes is that your content should be timeless. What he means by this is that if your content is only pertinent only to what is going on today, there’s not much reason for people to want to look at it tomorrow. This is especially important as you try to build momentum for your site traffic over time.

Early on, your site will not be highly listed on any engines. With Google, you’ll be stuck in the “sandbox” for quite a while. While you may be providing great content that is extremely relevant for the day, week, or month it is published, your potential readers will never find it, at least from a search engine. Down the road, you may be lucky enough to be bumped up to a high ranking for the search terms, but it’s likely that no one will be searching for it.

Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, I maintain a site for my rugby club (www.knoxvillerugby.com) that contains scores and information about the club for the last few years. While the score of last Saturday’s match will get the majority of its traffic in the week following the match, there is a good chance that old guys who want to relive the glory days will one day come back to our site, possibly through a search engine, and read about what happened way back when. But, like I said, the majority of the traffic is going to come in the first week. This traffic is not search engine driven. It is driven by the fact that the site is reliable and updated in a timely manner. Not only do members of our club check our site regularly, but members of other clubs whose place in the league standings are tied to the results of our match check it as well.

So what do I mean by “build for change”? One could take that statement as a call to build in scalability and flexibility. While these are certainly important attributes to consider for your site, this actually isn’t what I’m talking about at all. The basic idea of what I’m saying is, don’t focus your efforts on search engines. Don’t focus on trying to get people to link to you. Don’t focus your energy on driving loads of traffic to your site today.

Focus on providing your customers with exactly what they want–good content that they want to come back for. All the rest will follow.

The biggest problem with relying on technology to drive your traffic is that technology is always changing. In 1999-2000, the .com boom, I was doing some work for a company who was selling its services to European companies to boost their rankings on search engines. Back then, Yahoo! ruled the roost, but they didn’t have nearly the market share that Google has now. People weren’t focused just on getting ranked highly on Yahoo!, but every search engine. We were monitoring rankings on over 100 different search engines as well as checking for links on the highest traffic sites on the web. Our goal was to get our customers rated highly on ALL of these engines. In much the same way that Google’s Page Rank system works now, each customer was assigned an indexed ranking based on their listing in the engines and the number of links to them that existed on high traffic sites.

Not exactly rocket surgery, but useful at the time. What wasn’t foreseen by my employer was the fact that one company was going to come in and basically take over the search industry. I was constantly asking, “what do we do when the situation changes?” I’ve long since parted ways with them, but I can imagine that their customers aren’t very thrilled with their Ask Jeeves rankings being in the top ten if their Google ranking is 97. I’m sure they’ve adjusted their product to account for this, but there are factors they didn’t see coming that I’m not sure they’ve dealt with. I would guess the most difficult problem they had to addres is that not only did the dominant players in the game change, but the technology changed as well.

The way search engines worked has drastically changed since 2000. Search engines are smarter (especially Google). Search engines are better equiped to handle rapidly changing sites. Most importantly, search engines are constantly changing and improving going forward.

Ironically, one of the tasks assigned to me way back then was to develop a “keyword generator”. Literally, those were the specifications I was given–“develop a keyword generator”. Now, my idea of a keyword generator and my boss’s were completely different, and frankly, my idea was a little ahead of its time.

My boss was very disappointed when I proudly showed him my software. He was expecting a tool that prompted the user enter a few keywords, then spat back these same keywords with the <meta> tags around them.

He was actually a little angry when I demonstrated my app that spidered three layers into a site and returned suggestions for keywords based on frequently occurring words and weighted based on the page on which they occurred and their placement on the page.

Which sounds like it more accurately addresses how search engines work nowadays?

The point isn’t that he wanted me to write a tool with very little functionality (and there were a million of these already available). The problem was that he had no inkling that search engines could ever change or evolve and refused to consider it when confronted.

We are facing a movement today that I predict will drastically change the game again. Social networking sites are becoming more popular by the minute as a way to find information. “Rankings” on sites like Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit, etc. are driven completely by the users. Relevance and quality aren’t being decided by algorithms at all, but by actual people. So when 1,000 people “digg” your site, you better believe that there are thousands of others who are going to sit up and take notice of it.

As more and more people discover these sites and see the value in them, high rankings on these sites will become more and more important. Some people are well aware of this situation and are already coming up with ways to try to “game” these sites by falsifying user recommendations, and they are responding by banning domains that try to beat the system. I think a better approach is to focus on providing good, original content. You will not only increase your chances of finding good, loyal users, but you’ll also have built for the future.

We don’t know for sure what tomorrow will bring in search, social networking, or technologies that are still in their infancy. What we know for sure is that the goal of these technologies is always going to be finding and categorizing the best content out there.

Build quality into your site, and you can rest easy that you’ve also built for change.

I Called This One a Looooong Time Ago

Google entering the corporate software market.  Actually this is a step toward what I’ve predicted will happen.  Currently, Google’s model is to host all of the information on their site.  Some companies will have an issue with this, which is reasonable. 

I’ve predicted Google’s ultimate objective will be to sell an appliance that runs inside the corporate intranet.  The hardware will be bought/leased from Google, and no corporate information will get past the company’s firewall.  Google will maintain and patch the appliance from Mountain View, so users will always have the most up to date versions with the latest patches.  This will free up IT departments to deal with other issues, like keeping Microsoft patched and secure.

The big gotcha here is that all the users need to run the software is a browser.  Enter simplified versions of opensource OS’s that do nothing but run a browser.  Google can take a big bite out of Microsoft, not necessarily by stealing market share, but by eliminating a large part of the office suite and operating system markets entirely.